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May 26, 2009

Judge Sotomayor – Hispanic Nuyorican Nominated To US Supreme Court

President Obama made history today by nominating the first Hispanic to the United States Supreme Court. Her name is Sonia Sotomayor, a Judge who sits on the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

If confirmed by the Senate, Judge Sotomayor would replace retiring Justice David Souter, and become the second woman to serve currently on the high court and only the third in history. Born and raised in a South Bronx housing project, the Judge would be the first person of Puerto Rican (she calls herself a Nuyorican which is a blending of the terms “New York” and “Puerto Rican”) heritage to serve on the high court.

In nominating Sotomayor, President Obama cited her professional achievements and compelling personal story, calling her an “inspiring woman who I am confident will make a great justice.”

“It doesn’t matter where you come from, what you look like, or what challenges life throws your way. No dream is beyond reach in the United States of America,” Obama said.

In a statement in the East Room ceremony announcing her nomination, Sotomayor said, “Never in my wildest childhood imaginings…did I ever dream that I would live this moment.” Judge Sotomayor loved Nancy Drew mysteries as a child and yearned to be a police detective. But a doctor who diagnosed her childhood diabetes suggested that would be difficult. She traded her admiration of Nancy Drew for an allegiance to Perry Mason — she became a huge fan of TV’s Perry Mason and decided to become a lawyer.

Unless there is a scandalous revelation about Sotomayor, she is expected to be confirmed. Conservative will without a doubt make a fuss about the nomination of a Hispanic woman and further alienate Hispanics.  Wendy Long, counsel to the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network said, “Judge Sotomayor is a liberal judicial activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important than the law as written. She thinks that judges should dictate policy, and that one’s sex, race, and ethnicity ought to affect the decisions one renders from the bench.”

Judge Sotomayor is the infamous Judge that ended the 1995 Major League Baseball strike. She ruled against the baseball team owners and in favor of the ballplayers, a decision that ended a lengthy strike and resumed play. At age 54, Judge Sotomayor would be the second-youngest member of the court, after Chief Justice John Roberts, thus potentially setting up decades of clashes between competing views of the Constitution and a variety of issues.

Sotomayor has served on the federal bench for 16 years, as a US district court judge in New York City from 1992 to 1998 under the great Robert Morgenthau and as a judge on the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York from 1998 to present. Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation hearing in the Senate is expected to begin in approximately two months and her record will no doubt endure microscopic scrutiny.

Judge Sotomayor’s was born in the South Bronx to Puerto Rican parents; she was diagnosed with diabetes at age 8. Her father died when she was 9, and she and her brother were raised by their mother, a nurse, in a housing project near Yankee Stadium.

She graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1976 and from Yale Law School in 1979. After law school, she prosecuted violent criminals in the District Attorney’s Office in New York from 1979 to 1984. She then worked for eight years in private practice representing international corporations and was nominated by President George H.W. Bush to a federal judgeship.

She was later nominated by President Clinton to her current post on the appeals court. She was confirmed in 1998 by a vote of 67 to 29 to 2.


March 21, 2009

Elena Kagan – Supreme Court Justice In Training?

elena-kagan  On Friday Elena Kagan, 48, was sworn-in by Chief Justice John Roberts and became the nation’s first female Solicitor General, a position informally regarded as the tenth Supreme Court justice.

Kagan is a former University of Chicago Law School teaching colleague of President Obama and is regarded as a noteworthy contender for any opening on the high court that he would fill. Justices John Paul Stevens, 88, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 76, and David Souter, 69, are considered the most likely to retire during Obama’s presidency.

Kagan’s role as solicitor general is to represent the United States – including defending acts of Congress — at the Supreme Court and also deciding when to appeal lower court decisions. Her personal views on key issues are less important than they would be if she were nominated to be a judge.

Next month the Supreme Court will debate about the continuing viability of a key provision of the federal law that enforces the voting rights of minorities and this will be Kagan’s first opportunity to argue a Supreme Court case.  This will be akin to an audition for the big show – to be a member of the big 9.

The case is about the landmark Voting Rights Act and its requirement that all or parts of 16 states with a history of discrimination get approval before instituting any changes that affect voting. It has not been announced who will argue the case, but the Solicitor General, the administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer, typically handles the biggest cases.

Kagan clerked for the late-Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and in her role as Dean of Harvard Law School.  She has also hosted several justices at events at Harvard. Justices Stephen Breyer, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Souter and Roberts are all Harvard alumni. Justice Ginsburg began her legal studies at Harvard, but received her degree from Columbia University.

Kagan’s efforts to bridge the gap between conservatives and liberals on Harvard’s complex and multifarious faculty won her praise and she was endorsed by several predecessors – Republicans and Democrats alike – to be Solicitor General.

She and Roberts, both former Supreme Court law clerks, also share an odd history. Roberts was nominated for a seat on the federal appeals court in Washington in 1992, but not confirmed by a Democratic-controlled Senate. Kagan was nominated to the same court in 1999, but the Republicans who controlled the Senate then did not act on the nomination.

When George W. Bush became president in 2001, he nominated Roberts to the same seat Kagan had been chosen to fill.

February 5, 2009

Will President Obama Make His First Supreme Court Appointment Soon?

supreme-court-justice-ruth-bader-ginsburg  Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had surgery today after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the court said.

Ginsburg, 75, had the surgery at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. According to her surgeon Dr. Murray Brennan she will remain in the hospital for seven to 10 days.

The court announcement said the cancer is apparently in the early stages. In 1999, Ginsburg, had surgery for colon cancer and had chemotherapy and radiation treatment. The pancreatic cancer was discovered during a routine annual exam late last month at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. A CAT scan revealed a tumor measuring about 1 centimeter across the center of her pancreas.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly cancers: Nearly 38,000 cases a year are diagnosed and overall, fewer than 5 percent survive five years.  Fewer than one in 10 cases are diagnosed at an early stage — like Ginsburg’s appears to be — before the cancer has begun spreading through the abdomen and beyond. That’s because early pancreatic cancer produces few symptoms other than vague indigestion.

Even when caught early, surgery for pancreatic cancer is laborious. Doctors typically remove parts of the pancreas, stomach and intestines. Radiation and chemotherapy are common after surgery.

Ginsburg has recently told her former law clerks and others that she had no plans to retire any time soon, although those comments were made before the latest diagnosis.  She has been a justice since 1993.

Ginsburg is one of the few liberal freethinking Justices of the Court – we wish her a speedy recovery.

October 1, 2008

Katie Couric: Palin v Biden On Roe v Wade

The McCain campaign most likely is having a team meeting and writing a press-release which will accuse Katie Couric of being a sexist. Katie Couric has done a great public service by asking Palin some real questions and giving voters the opportunity to see how Palin answers.

What is most alarming about Palin’s answer to Couric is that Palin says she believes in ‘privacy’ which is a main component of the Roe v Wade decision in 1973.  According to the Roe decision, most laws against abortion in the United States violated a constitutional right to privacy under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

So it seems that Palin disagrees with Roe v Wade but doesn’t understand the fundamentals of Roe v Wade since she believes in the ‘privacy’ dynamic. Palin doesn’t seem to get the nuances of any issue. Just incredible.




Obama/Biden 2008!


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